Socioeconomic status and performance in the US Navy and US Air Force
Harper, Rebecca L.
Heldreth, Carl R.
Cook, Michael D.
Eitelberg, Mark J.
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Policy makers concerned about population representation in America's armed forces have frequently referred to the unfair burden" of military service borne by young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The purpose of this study was to examine the socioeconomic status (SES) of recruits in the Navy and Air Force and to analyze the relationship between a recruits SES background and his or her performance in the military over time. Data for this study were obtained from three sources: the Department of Defense Survey of Recruit Socioeconomic Backgrounds (SES survey), Military Entrance Processing Command enlisted cohort files, and personnel data files provided by the Navy and Air Force. After merging these data files, the SES survey respondents were tracked longitudinally, and several analyses were undertaken to assess the relationship between SES and performance in the military. The results of this research show that recruits in both services come from slightly lower SES backgrounds than do youths in the general population; and, most of this difference can be explained by the fact that sailors and airmen are consistently underrepresented in the highest measures or correlates of SES and over-represented in the lowest ones. Additionally, it was found that, while SES is not a strong predictor of first- term enlisted attrition in either service, it does explain differences in recruits' performance on-the-job in the Air Force. Further research is recommended, especially that which incorporates supervisors' ratings of military performance
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